ScotRail needs to get “bums back on seats” after the train operator’s revenue fell by more than £100m a year amid the Covid pandemic, its managing director said.
Alex Hynes said the pandemic had “changed consumer behaviour”, adding: “When consumer behaviour changes so much we have to change with it.”
With services currently provided by ScotRail due to be taken into public ownership in March, Mr Hynes stressed the fall in revenue is “clearly not a sustainable situation”.
He promised “steeper discounts” on fares as ScotRail tries to get travellers back on its trains.
With commuter numbers still down on pre-Covid levels, he said a new timetable to come in from May could see more trains running between Edinburgh and Glasgow on Saturdays than during the working week.
Speaking at a fringe event at the SNP annual conference, Mr Hynes said: “We’re going to have to change our business.”
My Hynes, speaking to the conference from his home office, spoke about the impact the pandemic has had on finances.
He said: “The biggest problem right now I’ve got is the fact that my revenue is only 65% of what it was two years ago. And that difference, the 35%, which is over £100m per annum is being paid for by the taxpayer.
“That’s clearly not a sustainable situation.
“So we have to look at how can we respond to new markets, but also how can we look at our costs.
“So we’re looking at our timetable, we’re looking at our pricing, we’re offering steeper discounts than we have in the past because we have to get bums back on seats.
“We recently finished a consultation on our timetable for May next year, and we’re going to run more frequently between Edinburgh and Glasgow on a Saturday than we do Monday to Friday, because leisure is back but commuting and business is not.”
Scots who have been working from home during the pandemic are expected to only be in the office part time under hybrid working arrangements.
Mr Hynes said: “There’s not even a date to reopen essential offices here in Scotland, for reasons we all understand, because it is the right thing to do for public health.
“I can’t just sit here with my fingers crossed expecting life is going to go back to normal, absolutely not. Coronavirus has changed everything and the rail network has to change with it.”